(First posted at RealGM)
Much like Bender, Labissiere also struggled with every aspect of the game that involved physicality last season. John Calipari tried to force him to develop into the sort of player Karl-Anthony Towns, Jr. did the year before but Labissiere has a much weaker 216-pound frame in the context of his seven-foot height, unable to establish deep position to get the ball and then bully his way into a decent look with his back to the basket.
But more a lot more corcerning was his inability to hold ground in the post and box out to protect the defensive glass, often getting pushed out of the way. Labissiere collected just x% of opponents’ misses last season, according to our stats database – an alarming mark for someone his size.
With those sorts of weaknesses, it’s impossible to imagine a coach feeling comfortable enough to have Labissiere playing as a center in an NBA game right now, which pushes him down a position and means he has to play power forward. But Labissiere has never really proven to have the sort of skills the league is looking for in players that position these days; hit outside shots, attack a closeout, pass on the move, switch screens.
But while the issue of strength hasn’t taken much of shine out of Bender’s NBA prospects, it has hurt Labissiere’s stock (he was projected by many as a potential number one pick entering Kentucky) quite a bit because he’s already 20 years old and doesn’t have a long track record playing organized basketball at the highest level of competition within his age group.
He should still become a lottery pick, though. Maybe even top 10. That’s because of his athleticism and the flashes he’s shown of a jump-shot. Labissiere is projected as the perfect scoring big for this Era, as he can be put in the pick-and-roll and play above the rim as a target for lobs or spot up as a weak-side threat, potentially from three-point range or for sure in the dunker spot. Those were things he was not given much opportunity to do at Kentucky but figure to be the strong points of his skill-set.
Defensively, Labissiere uses his athleticism to block shots coming off the weak-side, leaping off the ground in a pinch and possessing a nine-foot standing reach to tap the ball at a high point. And he moves so fluidly in space that there can be hope he develops into an asset to pick up smaller players on switches down the line, but that’s unclear right now.
It seems evident that whichever team drafts Labissiere should probably think of him in terms of Bismack Biyombo’s timeline, a guy who is just now – in his second contract – developing into an impact player. The tough question is what sort of value proposition he’ll be then and whether that’s enough to worth the wait.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara